February is Heart Health Awareness Month, making it a good time to shed light on how we can support this vital organ.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States yet many still do not address their cardiac health until a problem occurs.
Diet, the way in which we fuel our body, is one of the main ways to promote heart health in daily life.
Below are the top ten foods to incorporate your diet to protect your heart and improve overall wellness:
1. Green Tea
Green tea has been utilized for its health benefits for hundreds of years. This herbal remedy can aid in burning fat and improve insulin sensitivity (decreasing your chances of developing insulin resistance.
Green tea is also packed with potent antioxidants such as polyphenols and catechins that reduce cellular damage and protect cardiac cells. Moreover, green tea has been shown to reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, supporting arterial health.
A review of several studies on the health benefits of green tea extract found that patients experienced reduced blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and total cholesterol levels compared.
Another natural remedy that has been utilized for remedies, garlic is effective in supporting overall health and cardiac wellness.
Garlic fuels beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome that promote HDL, “good” cholesterol levels and decreases the presence of LDL cholesterol.
Additionally, garlic contains a compound called allicin, which can help reduce blood pressure and inhibit unnecessary platelet buildup, decreasing your chance of blood clots or stroke.
For maximum health benefits, it is best to consume garlic raw or lightly cooked. The more processed garlic is, the less effective its benefits are.
Walnuts are a rich source of fiber and micronutrients such as magnesium, copper, and manganese. This combination of nutrients has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol levels, total cholesterol levels, and risk of heart disease.
4. Leafy Greens
Dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are essential to any health-boosting diet. Rich in antioxidants, they are effective in combating oxidative stress that strains the heart. Leafy greens are also packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K and nitrates, which promote healthy clotting, cellular function, and arterial health.
Although it can feel as though “eating your greens” is over-said and no longer rings true, the data around this topic doesn’t lie. One study of almost 30,000 women linked regular consumption of dark, leafy green vegetables to a significantly lowered risk of coronary artery disease.
Contrary to popular belief, not all fats are bad, and not all fats cause weight gain. Avocados are the perfect example of this. This superfood is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are linked to lower levels of cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease.
Avocados are also rich in numerous vitamins and minerals, namely, potassium, which is critical for fueling the cells involved with heart function. Avocados actually contain 975 milligrams of potassium, or 28% of the amount that you need in a day.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and other berries are packed with antioxidants that combat oxidative stress and promote overall cellular health. Because of these reparative qualities, berries help reduce system inflammation, one of the leading contributors to annual deaths. 50% of deaths in the United States are related to inflammation (this includes coronary artery disease and cardiovascular disease.
7. Fatty Fish
Wild-caught salmon, trout, tuna, sardines, and other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are well-documented for the brain-boosting benefits, but they are also very beneficial for the heart. A long-term diet of omega-3s has been linked to lower cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, blood sugar levels, and risk of cardiovascular disease.
Seeds such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds are the perfect combination of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. For this reason, a multitude of studies have documented that diets that regularly include seeds can reduce numerous heart disease risk factors including inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels.
Tomatoes are easy to incorporate into numerous dishes and can boost the health of your heart due to their potent nutrients. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a plant pigment that has powerful antioxidants properties. In fact, lycopene is so critical in combating inflammation that studies have linked low levels of this plant compound to increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
10. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A staple in the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil is a great way to promote cardiac wellness. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids, both of which reduce the risk of heart problems. In fact, a study of over 7,000 adults showed that those who regularly consumed olive oil had a 35% lower risk of developing heart disease.